To All New (Or Soon To Be) Graduates

Congratulations on your impending graduation.  It is certainly an achievement you should take pride in.

Please note that I am not in a position to hire any staff for the forseeable future.  However, I would suggest that you try to find a suitable position with one of the larger design firms such as Jacobs or Fluor.

The reason I suggest large engineering houses is the new reality of project engineering.  In the past, all the major chemical companies had their in-house design firms.  That was then, this is now.  Most of the large companies use their R&D people to develop the process and leave the “heavy lifting” of design and construction to outside contractors.  They do this to limit their liability and to focus on their core business – chemical manufacture.

At such a firm, you will gain valuable insight as to how engineering happens – the concept of the process, the specification of the process vessels and instruments, the piping design and layout.  Just because you have attained a significant academic degree, you need to understand your limitations and minimal real world experience.  You will probably be working with people who have been doing the art of process design for 20 or more years; take the opportunity to learn from them.  Not all engineering knowledge resides in books.

You should work to understand the actual practice of Engineering.  Engineering is everything from the big picture to the tiny details – and the details are what costs real money to either the client or your firm.  Every decision has consequences and you need to think these through before you settle on a course of action.  Over time, and with experience, those decisions will become easier to make but do not fall into the trap that all decisions are easy to make.

Ultimately, you should strive to obtain your Professional Engineering license (PE, PEng in Canada, Chartered Engineer in the UK).  In the long run it will open you up to new opportunities and show clients that you are serious about what you do.

It can be a long and profitable career, but it will take years of hard work and effort.  Remember that even though you are about to graduate, in 5 years you will be the person that the new grads will consider “over the hill”.

So I wish you the best of luck in your carer.

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One Response

  1. This is from a person that had a long, happy, and successful career in chemical engineering, both in an in-house engineering department of a large company and as a staff member in a professional engineering service company. Keith’s comments are right on target and excellent advice. I would add just one thing. As you learn and advance in your profession always execute each assignment in a spirit of willingness to do your part to make the project successful. Avoid short-cutting and personal positioning as a means for advancing. Excellent performance does pay off in the end.

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